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Facebook Dispute

Facebook Dispute

April 18, 2008

Aaron Greenspan’s continuing dispute with Facebook owner, Mark Zuckerberg has taken the form of a petition to cancel Facebook’s trademark registration in the USA mentioned here. The origins of the dispute lay in Greenspan ’s claims to have had the original idea for the social networking company.

Two interesting points arise from this – firstly how the question whether a trade mark is too descriptive can differ based on culture and language. While in the USA ‘Facebook’ is apparently a generic term for the kind of photo directory that many schools have published annually for years – see here. In the UK the word has no such meaning, so that the trade mark FACEBOOK is distinctive.

The other point of interest is the way in which people want to claim ownership of an idea – as if it is the idea which is responsible for the success that is achieved with it. Anyone who has been in business knows that it is how you implement an idea that determines whether it succeeds or not. But if you do think yours is a brilliant idea then the only way to protect it is to keep it to yourself, and only disclose it to someone else if you trust them, and have a good, properly drafted confidentiality agreement in place. The agreement does need to be tailored to the situation in hand if it is to have any value whatsoever.